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Cynthia Arvide – WNN Features
(WNN) MEXICO CITY: In less than two months, two women journalists who covered drug-related violence have been killed in Mexico. Yolanda Ordaz a reporter for the Vera Cruz coastal newspaper “Notiver” and more recently, thirty-nine-year-old María Elisabeth Macías Castro, a reporter for the regional newspaper “Primera Hora”, based in the town of Nuevo Laredo located in northern Mexico close to the U.S./Texas border.
Macías murder is considered the first documented case in Mexico where the murder is thought to be a direct retaliation for journalism that was specifically posted using online social media. She was also an active Twitter user and was in favor of using social media to post helpful information for society related to organized crime.
Her violent early morning murder came with a cryptic well-placed message: “…For those who do not want to believe, this happened to me for my actions, for trusting ‘Sedena’ (Mexico’s Army) and ‘Marina’ (Mexico’s Navy). Thank you for your attention. Sincerely, ‘La Nena de Laredo’ (Elisabeth Macías’ name online)… ZZZZ”. The signature with the letter ‘Z’ suggests a strong link to the notorious criminal cartel named ‘Los Zetas’.
Los Zetas has been known as one of the most active cartels in Mexico. The cartel’s headquarters is the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Working as a paramilitary arm of its present drug war rival ‘the Gulf Cartel’ in the 1990s, Los Zetas managed military-like operations. The crime ring is considered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration today to be one of the most dangerous armed cartels in Mexico.
When seasoned crime reporter thirty-two-year-old María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe completely disappeared on November 2009, she was in the process of writing about local police corruption and about the activities of two members of the another active Mexican crime organization called ‘La Familia’. Aguilar vanished from her home in Zamora in south-western Mexico without a trace. Today she continues to be missing.
Violence against women journalists in Mexico’s cartel corners mirrors the violence against women in other locations in Mexico that are also controlled by corrupt forces, such as the hundreds of women who have disappeared or were found missing in the border town of Juarez. The ongoing violence against Mexico’s press is another action of intimidation that is the most dangerous in areas where cartels have more control.
“Violence against the press has swept the nation and destroyed Mexicans’ right to freedom of expression”, says CPJ – Committee to Protect Journalists in special 2010 report on violence against journalists in Mexico. “This national crisis demands a full-scale federal response”.
In regions where cartel violence is high the fear is tangible for those trying to get information out online and in-print about the drug cartels.
“With most of the police here you don’t know who you’re talking to—a detective or a representative of organized
crime”, said Aguilar’s husband and former police chief David Silva.
With cartels now carefully watching internet forums, blog posts and twitter tweets, all journalists and bloggers are in increased danger as they are monitored and identified as online targets. The recent murder of journalist Elisabeth Macías is a case in point.
“The fight for territorial control of the border zone is also waged in a new battleground: the internet and its social media”, says the new November 2011 Social Media Manifesto Against Mexican Drug Cartels by a group which calls themselves ‘the Mexican Internet Community’.
“We the twitterers and hashtag users of Northeastern Mexico (#reynosafollow, #nuevolaredo, #matamoros, #tamaulipas, #mier, and others who) released this manifesto in response to the murder of our companion, a social media user attacked by a group of drug traffickers, that occurred early this morning in the city of Nuevo Laredo, in the state of Tamaulipas,” continued the Manifesto.
“We repudiate and condemn this criminal act that has provoked a state of terror, and we demand justice in the face of the national silence it is meant to impose, and the stage of amnesia and impunity it portends. This murder is the fourth against twitterers and bloggers that has occurred in less than two months”, added the Mexico Internet Community.
As the news of Macías murder spread throughout the internet, UNESCO condemned the assassination of Macías and demanded “urgent measures to stop the violence against journalists in Mexico”.
“…in practice, there is no efficient defense, investigation or preventing measures. We live in an absolute state of anarchy, of save-yourself, where the journalist has no option but to self-censor”, said Mexican Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora in one of Mexico’s most popular daily newspapers La Jornada. A few months after his September 2011 statement, Blake died in a mysterious helicopter crash on November11. Investigations are currently looking at the possibility that the helicopter’s fuel may have been contaminated.
As social media becomes an important tool for communicating, the already high incidence of violence in Mexico has accelerated rapidly as those who speak out, including numerous women journalists, who have also been particularly daring in there actions in speaking out online, are targeted.